The debate over “British values” came to the fore in the wake of the “Trojan horse” affairs, and the realization that hundreds of British Muslim men – and some women – had become radicalised enough to join extremists in Iraq and Syria. The government has stressed “fundamental British values” must be taught and encouraged in schools. To this end, secular and humanist campaigners have welcomed an increase in inspections, saying that for too long the UK has allowed religious communities to “enforce their own values and traditions” on children.
But the school that has been recently inspected said that during a two-day inspection in October, Ofsted asked pupils “vaguely worded questions which produced vague responses”. “To make sweeping generalisations on the basis of their response is utterly unprofessional,” it said in a statement.
Suggestions that children were not protected from extremist views were “completely unfounded”, it said, adding that Ofsted’s findings regarding the role of women did not “reflect the school’s attitude”. The school said it was “natural” for an Islamic school to have a “primary ethos” based on Islam, but that did not mean it taught children that other faiths and traditions were “antithetical to Islamic teachings”.
The six private schools are all in Tower Hamlets, where the council said it had no jurisdiction over teaching and standards at independent faith schools and that its powers were limited to offering training and advice to schools.
A month after a mosque in north London was destroyed in an arson attack, it is heartening to see that East London Mosque in Whitechapel is expanding. When it gets fully under way, the Maryam Centre will offer a range of projects and services for women in the community – a prayer hall, counselling, and a gym – as well as house a school and a visitor centre for non-Muslims. The centre will make the mosque very much more than just a provider of religious services. With 25,000 worshipers attending a week, and that is outside Ramadan, the mosque has already become a key hub for the community. Its original purpose in 1910 was as a place of worship for sailors and travellers who came to Tower Hamlets. It took most of the last century to establish a permanent base in Whitechapel. Today it is the living and growing answer to those on the extreme right who vilify mosques as the home of fundamentalists.
31 January 2013
One of the most comprehensive studies to date on UK Muslim-government relations, entitled “Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance”, describes how British Muslims have been taking part in governance in the three policy fields of equality, diversity and cohesion; faith sector governance; and security. It describes how modes of Muslim representation have developed into a broader ‘democratic constellation’.
The report, published by Centre for the Study and Citizenship at University of Bristol, included an analysis of public policy since 1997, a total of 112 interviews with key policymakers and Muslim civil society actors, and in-depth local case studies of Birmingham, Leicester, and Tower Hamlets, London.
According to the report, Muslims have become increasingly visible in governance recently. This inevitably led to the debates regarding “Muslim identities, alliances, rights, claims-making and the place of Muslims and Islam within the West.” The report highlights that the current visibility of Muslims in British politics is also a result of the increasing activism of Muslims.
click here for full report
17 December 2012
The outcome of the UK Census 2011 was published last week. The census data revealed a sharp rise in the Muslim population. The Muslim population in the UK has significantly risen between 2001 and 2011 from 1.5 million to almost 3 million. Hence, Muslim proportion has increased from 2% of the population to 5%. In some towns, Muslims make up almost 50% of the population, and in large cities like London and Manchester they make up around 14% of the population.
Muslim populations in Manchester (over 100,000), Birmingham (plus 96,000), Bradford (plus 55,000) and most of the inner London boroughs, notably Newham (plus 64,000), Tower Hamlets (plus 58,000) and Haringey (plus 52,000). Tower Hamlets remains the local authority district with the greatest proportion of Muslims – 34.5%. The 2011 census estimates that there are now 2.7 million British Muslims, with nearly 40 per cent of them — a million — living in London.
The census data also revealed a sharp increase in foreign-born residents: 7.5million residents of England and Wales were foreign-born in 2011 Just 44.9 per cent of Londoners are White British. Further less than 90 per cent of country is white for the first time ever. According to the census data Christianity has been in decline: Around 59 per cent British people now call themselves Christian and a quarter say they have no religion.
Muslim Council of Britain Welcomed the Census 2011 results, and commented that “the growth in number points to the fact that Muslims play a significant part in the increasing diversity of Britain.”
Julian Bond, director of the Christian Muslim Forum, said the figures reinforced the need to “think about the best possible way to engage with Islam and think about whether people should be having days off for Eid, how Ramadan is accommodated and how religion is taught in schools”.
02 May 2012
Tower Hamlets’ Legal Chief Isabella Freeman rejected the postal vote fraud allegations in the local elections and explained by blaming Muslim voters’ forgetfulness to sign the registered applications. The police has launched an investigation on the allegations.
On September 3rd, the English Defence League (EDL) went ahead with their plan to march through Tower Hamlets, despite a ban on marches issues by Home Secretary Theresa May prior to the event (as reported). Roughly 3,000 police officers tried to maintain control and created “no-man zones” between the estimated 1,000 EDL supporters and the 1,500 anti-EDL protesters. The police also made an effort to keep the EDL outside of Tower Hamlets. As the BBC reports, 16 EDL members were arrested during the demonstrations.
The fact that the EDL chose to march through Tower Hamlets seems to be a reaction to the boroughs multicultural character; Tower Hamlets, home to over 70,000 Muslims (the largest proportion of Muslims to live in any English local authority), has recently seen increasing signs of radical Islamism, with signs declaring the borough a “Sharia controlled zone” and public libraries providing texts by renowned Islamic extremists such as Abu Hamza al-Masri (as reported). It is this context that offered potential to be attacked by the EDL, which aimed to challenge the “Islamification” of the borough. As the Internet portal Qantara notes, the support of the Muslim community expressed by the anti-EDL protesters, which included representatives of the Lesbian and Gay Coalition against Racism and the Jewish Orthodox Community, illustrated that, despite official announcements of the failure of multiculturalism, multiculturalism in Tower Hamlets is, in fact, well and alive.
Home Secretary Theresa May has banned a march through Tower Hamlets, one of the UK’s biggest Muslim communities, planned by the English Defence League (EDL) for September 3rd. The Guardian reports that May has effectively outlawed ‘any marches in Tower Hamlets and four neighbouring boroughs – whether by the EDL or any other group – for the next 30 days, having “balanced rights to protest against the need to ensure local communities and property are protected”’. The ban was requested by the Metropolitan police due to concern over serious public disorder, violence, and damage. In the past, members of the EDL, which purports to oppose Islamic extremism but insists to not be a racist group, have been seen to be extremely provocative during their marches, which were mainly aimed at Muslim communities.
Mohammed Hasnath, a Muslim man from Tower Hamlets, was fined last week after pleading guilty to putting up stickers declaring London’s East End a “gay free zone” earlier this year. The stickers, showing a rainbow flag with a black line through it stating “gay free zone”, outraged East London’s community and were illegal under section 5 of the Public Order Act causing harassment, alarm and distress. Hasnath was fined £100 for the public order offence.
Daily Mail – Following a rise in homophobic attacks and an increase in the number of extremist Muslim preachers in Tower Hamlets, the East London borough is more and more concerned about hardline Muslims imposing their values on others in the borough. Recently, it was reported that Islamic extremists, operating from Tower Hamlets and aiming to establish Sharia Law in Britain, have threatened a 31-year-old Asian pharmacist for refusing to wear a veil, even though she is not a practicing Muslim. While, initially, the woman’s boss received threats of boycotts for employing a female who does not cover her head in an allegedly “Muslim area”, subsequently, the woman herself received death threats. While worried and afraid, the residents of Tower Hamlets are not surprised by incidents like this, as similar threats had previously been issued and the borough has also seen a rise in homophobic abuse and physical attacks on gay men and women by Islamist groups.
Recently, Islamist groups have also begun to dominate the community’s political processes, with Bangaldeshi-born Lutfur Rahman becoming the first directly elected mayor of the borough. Originally a Labour candidate, Rahman was dumped by the party due to alleged links with a fundamentalist organization known as the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE). Subsequently, he ran as an independent candidate, allegedly with the help of the IFE, and managed to win the elections in what the London Evening Standard described as ‘one of the nastiest campaigns in recent London political history’. The Daily Mail reports of a local resident who made the following comment on the current situation: ‘You basically have a large umbrella Islamist group that appears to have almost a stranglehold over a major council in the East End of London’. Specific concern relates to Islamist group’s attempt to impose Islam on Britain, starting with the borough of Tower Hamlets, where evidence of Muslim extremism can easily be found in the form of “Sharia for the UK” or “gay-free zone” leaflets, homophobic incidents, and censored advertising boards (such as in Birmingham). While such incidents worry local residents, not many dare to voice these concerns, as they fear to be branded Islamophobic.
22 Oct 2010
Lutfur Rahman – who won just over 50 per cent of the vote – ran as an independent after he was deselected as Labour’s candidate. He was backed by George Galloway’s Respect organisation. Mr Rahman, who served as Labour leader of the council until he was removed six months ago, said all he wanted to do was serve the people of Tower Hamlets – whatever their colour, religion or creed.
His election bid was supported by several Labour councillors, and London’s former mayor Ken Livingstone, who risked internal party discipline to back him against the official Labour man, Helal Abbas. Mr Abbas, who’s been leader of the council five times, launched a bitter attack on his rival last night accusing him of being “in the gutter”. He called it a sad night for anyone who wanted to build a better future, and a united Tower Hamlets.
The two men have been embroiled in bitter infighting throughout the campaign. Last month Mr Abbas produced a dossier accusing Mr Rahman of being influenced by a group called the Islamic Forum of Europe – which he described as a “fundamentalist organisation which is gradually infiltrating the Labour party.” It was this document which influenced the party’s National Executive Committee to remove Lutfur Rahman as the official candidate, and replace him with Mr Abbas.